Employee handbook approved by council
January 12, 2012
Written by Greg Merritt
CHINCOTEAGUE -- In the first Chincoteague Town Council meeting of the new year, there was one proposal that caused division in the ranks. The council voted 4-2 in favor of a new employee handbook at the Jan. 3 meeting.
Prior to the vote there were changes made in the handbook proposal, but the changes did not bring about unanimous consent. The part of the proposal that dealt with employees being able to take care of their families during times of town emergencies drew division.
The problems centered around the language used in the original proposal. Mayor Jack Tarr urged the council to add the word "may" in the following sentence: "Essential employees 'may' be allowed to return to their homes and/or seek safety outside the affected area if mandatory evacuations are indicated or invoked."
"I respectfully disagree," said Councilman Terry Howard. He wanted the language to remain "will be allowed."
"We certainly want our employees safe," said Mayor Tarr. "We all agree on the safety of the families."
"I think we need a little more time to consider," said Vice Mayor Ellen Richardson. "With the changes that have been done, we need to see it in writing."
In the end, council members John Henry Howard, John N. Jester, Tripp Muth and Nancy Conklin voted in favor of the new employee handbook, while Richard-son and Terry Howard voted against it.
In other news from the Jan. 3 meeting:
� Town Planner William Neville told the council he was encouraged by the latest meeting with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We are glad to see that many of the concerns and comments by the town and public were addressed by the Fish and Wildlife Service staff," said Neville. "We're looking forward to working with the Fish and Wildlife Service staff to fine tune that a little bit. It was a nice way to end up 2011."
Neville said the town zoning map proposal would have a public hearing on Feb. 6 at the next monthly council meeting. There will be a work session on Jan. 19 to review the map.
� Police Chief Eddie Lewis reported that crime had gone down on the island in 2011. He told the council that his department made 1,049 traffic stops during 2011. They responded to 122 accidents and had 839 ambulance calls. The department made 859 security checks and 245 times responded for traffic control. The police had 21 drug cases and responded to 21 breaking and entering calls.
According to Lewis, his department responded to a total of 5,320 calls during the year.
The Chincoteague Police Department was active during the Christmas season with their annual Toy Drive, delivering toys to island children and some children in northern Accomack County.
In December, the police department was recognized by being the only police department on Virginia's Eastern Shore to receive certification.
� The council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the application for a state grant to public transportation in the amount of $75,400. The town's share of the grant to be used by the Chincoteague Trolley is $23,000.
� Town Manager Robert Ritter announced the winners of the annual Christmas Decoration Contest. Winning entries were: Judges Choice -- Mr. and Mrs. Michael Jester; Most Festive -- The Rev. and Mrs. William Gregory; Most Themed -- Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Rosenber-ger; Most Traditional -- Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Dale Holston. Each winner received a $100 savings bond. Honorable Mention awards went to The Chincoteague Center, Alex Hubb and Chuck and Tama Ward.
Mayor Tarr thanked Lorrie Walton and her group for the work done on the contest.
� Town Manager Ritter announced that most economic indicators for the island were up, except for sales tax.
� The council unanimously later went into a closed meeting to set goals and objectives for 2012 for the police and the council, citing Section 2.2-3711(A) (1) of the Code of Virginia.
The section reads in part: "Closed meetings authorized for certain limited purposes. A . Public bodies may hold closed meetings only for the following purposes: Discussion, consideration, or interviews of prospective candidates for employment; assignment, appointment, promotion, performance, demotion, salaries, disciplining, or resignation of specific public officers, appointees, or employees of any public body; and evaluation of performance of departments of schools of public institutions of higher education where such evaluation will necessarily involve discussion of the performance of specific individuals."
Setting goals and objectives may or may not fall within perimeters of the section. One council member mentioned that the council would discuss procedure in the closed meeting, and that in most views is prohibited by the sunshine laws.
Town Attorney Jon Poulson was not present at the meeting.
This article is redistributed by permission of the Chincoteague Beacon.